– Summary –
Director : Renny Harlin
Year Of Release : 2009
Principal Cast : John Cena, Ashley Scott, Aidan Gillan, Brian J White, Taylor Cole, Vincent Flood.
Approx Running Time : 109 Minutes
Synopsis: A New Orleans cop is terrorized by a criminal whose girlfriend was accidentally killed during a violent apprehension. He must jump through hoops to ensure his own girlfriend, kidnapped by the criminal mastermind, stays alive.
What we think : By the numbers, terribly bland action film hits all the right notes, body-slams them home with a jackhammer, and delivers only the most mild amounts of excitement. If 12 Rounds is some sort of play on words about how well pro-wrestler John Cena does in the ring, then this film is a round 1 TKO fiasco.
The ubiquitous WWE franchise branches out into film with this entry into the action genre, directed by the legendary Renny Harlin. Starring WWE alumnus John Cena, 12 Rounds tries very hard to be a gritty, raw action film in the mold of Bourne Identity, only without the amnesia and the story to back it up. Cena plays New Orleans police officer Danny Fisher, who, along with his partner Hank, manage to arrest highly intelligent wanted fugitive Miles Jackson – however, Jackson’s accomplice and girlfriend is killed in the process. Blaming Danny for her death, Miles escapes from prison a year later, and proceeds to taunt Danny with a series of tests, or “rounds”, in which Danny must perform otherwise his own love interest, Molly, is killed by the fugitive. Danny races across New Orleans deciphering the clues Miles gives him, until they meet in a final confrontation, with the fate of all three at stake. Renny Harlin, the man who gave us Die Hard 2, Deep Blue Sea, Cliffhanger and The Long Kiss Goodnight, as well as massive stinkers like Driven, Exorcist: The Beginning and The Covenant, would seem the perfect choice to helm a film which has at its heart a massive dose of testosterone – John Cena. You’d think the mix of Cena and Harlin would work well – yet both director and star have major handicaps they cannot overcome in getting this film out of second gear.
12 Rounds has major problems – not the least of which is leading man John Cena’s “acting” ability. It’s virtually non-existent. He pouts, glowers, glares and grimaces his way through this film like a tree-trunk on legs, with virtually no emotional content in his portrayal of a man on a knife’s edge. Cena garbles his lines like Stallone on a good day, struggling with the talky bits and only really shining when it comes to the sweaty, pulsating action. Ahh, if only there was sweaty, pulsating action to enjoy here. Sadly, Renny Harlin seems to have had his action balls cut out and replaced with a disinterested, phoning-it-in style of film-making. Harlin, a man who delivers good action even in the worst films, here can’t even raise a steady heartbeat in this one; his set-piece action moments feel badly executed, sloppily edited and just flat-out boring as hell. There was no energy, no spark. It felt flat, and I believe the main reason is that his eye for action seems to have vanished since he did Deep Blue Sea. Some of his shot selections are bizarre, nonsensical and completely wrong for the scene they appear in – major action sequences are killed by a lot of wide master shots, crazily WTF insert shots, and a genuine lack of energy. Perhaps it’s also the mix of having Cena having the bulk of the on-screen work, because Harlin seems incapable of working to his leading man’s strengths – have him punch, kick, and snarl his way through this film, instead of trying to make him, oh, I don’t know, a character. Cena isn’t built for drama, he’s built to kick the shit out of things. He does this only on a few occasions, and even then, Harlin seems to be directing from his studio funded set trailer. The villain, Aidan Gillan, has some terrible dialogue, and I was waiting for him to come on-screen and twirl his mustache or something – so cliched, and yet so predictable as an antagonist. 12 Rounds isn’t a great action film, although it’s serviceable enough for a midday movie on some public broadcasting channel. If this is the best Cena has to offer, I think I’ll skip the next fight.